Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
I remember a time not so long ago, at least not by my demographic. A time when, what happened at home, stayed at home You did not hang out your dirty laundry.
People did not talk about the unsavoury. It wasn’t proper and it was not accepted. Honour your father and your mother. Everybody has secrets, but Only bad girls go to jail.
Backwoods noir, I know it and here it is.
Inspired by the true story of the Goler Clan of Nova Scotia, Our Daily Bread tells the story of The Erskines, who live on North Mountain, in poverty, secrecy and isolation. They deal in moonshine, marijuana and most recently the making and moving of meth.
Albert Erskine is one of their clan, but he is far from comfortable in his own skin or theirs. He yearns for a better life, a way to distance himself from these woods, the elders, their secrets.
Davis quickly brings the reader into the dark heart of these secrets without ever resorting to sensationalism. A glimpse is all that is needed.
Six year old club-footed Brenda, one of Lloyd’s kids, stood on an old bucket and looked in a back window. She wore a boy’s jacket over a filthy pink nightgown, a pair of rubber boots several sizes too large, to accommodate her twisted left foot. She’d been in need of a bath several weeks ago. Albert knew what she was probably seeing in there, and he knew if she got caught she’d get a worse beating than he just got. If he called out he’d just scare her and she’d make a noise and then they’d both be in for it. He should just walk away and let whatever was going to happen go right on and happen. Erskines don’t talk and Erskines better mind their own fucking business. She turned then and looked at him tears pouring down her face.
Time peeled away, fled backwards and Albert was six years old again, his mouth full, gagging, the stench and sound of moans, his own flesh tearing……..bile rushed acidly into his mouth. His hands shook. His knees shook. He turned away. Spit. Spit again. One of these days he was going to do it. He’d get his rifle and put and end to the Erskines, all of them.
Gideon, the town closest to North Mountain is full of God fearing people who shun The Erskine clan and the people of North Mountain. They believe them to be beyond salvation. Even so the people in Gideon have their own problems. Take Tom Evans, his marriage is in trouble, leaving his children Ivy and Bobby at odds, looking for their own solace.
When Albert Erskine, comes down off the mountain to fish, he runs into Tom’s teenage son Bobby, and an unlikely friendship develops. A friendship that is destined to set the people of North Mountain and Gideon on a collision course. One with devastating results.
Dorothy Carlisle is an independent minded widow who runs a local antique shop in Gideon. She is following a tradition, one once shared with her late husband, one of taking boxes of provisions: clothes, food, books and such, up to the mountain and leaving them in a secluded spot, hopefully, for the children to find.
Part of her very much did not want to hear the sound again. A voice in her head told her to get back in the car as quickly as possible, and lock the doors. She was aware of her own heartbeat, and of the blood pulsing in her veins. Crickets. A mosquito near her ear, which she forced herself not to swat. And then…. “Mmmuhuuh….mmmuhhaaaa”…..Bestial, but not the sound of an animal. Human. “Uuuhhuhhh.” Human made inhuman. A sort of low keening – bereft even of the hope anyone might hear. Dorothy’s skin prickled and tightened. The sound held no threat, but seemed to echo from an abyss of despair. Her horror was not of something red in tooth and claw, or even fist and blade. Rather, she recoiled from understanding. She feared for her soul if it peered into that abyss. As though under some hideous enchantment, Dorothy stared at her own trembling hand, unable to move. “Oh God, oh God, oh God. Protect us.” The sound, the cry, came again then. Mourning made manifest. Such grief was surely as isolating, as solitary as any cell of stone or steel, as any nail and cross. Left to its own devices it would suck the entire world into the centre of its tarry core. It was alone out there.
This is the real deal. Read it.